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The Design then of this Conclusion is, to persuade us all of the utter Necessity of learning the true Spirit of Christianity, which is to be done by a diligent putting in Practice our Saviour's Precepts. This is a Foundation on which We may hope daily to build a noble Superstructure of all Virtue. This is the Way to grow in Grace, and in the Knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.
To him, with the Father, and the Holy Chost, &c.
, Mat. VII. 28.
And it came to pass when Jesus had ended these ■ Sayings, the People were astonished at his DaBrine.
V. 29. For he taught them as one having Authority, and not as the Scribes.
OU R Saviour's divine Sermon on the Mount being now finished, St. Matthew, the Relator of it, as lie had introduced it with a very useful Prologue, in the two first Verses of the fifth Chapter, which gave us a great Light into the Occasion and Scope of the whole Discourse; so he now concludes it with this Epilogue, giving us anAccount what Effect it had among the Hearers; namely, that they were struck with Admiration, astonished at his Doctrine, and a', the Divine Power, Force, and Energy, wherewith he had delivered it; in both which, 1 mean, both in the Matter and Manner of the Doctrine, they observed a great Difference between Jesus, and their usual Teachers, the Scribes.
In the Words, there are several Things well worthy of our Observation, and which, I think, had they been carefully minded, would have pre- . . . . vented vented divers Errors, and loose Interpretations, with Relation to the Sermon itself. I shall en* deavour, First, to speak to some Observations from the Words, and, if Time will allow, make some Application of them to ourselves.
I. From the first Words of the Text, And it came to pass when "Jesus had ended these Sayings; I observed that this Sermon was all delivered at one Time to this Auditory, and should therefore be interpreted as one uniform Discourse. I cannot fee what St. Matthew could do more to give us this Conception of it. For in the Beginning he acquaints us, that the Discourse was occasioned by our Saviour's looking on the Multitudes; that is, as I then interpreted it, from his Consideration of their Condition, and Circumstances; which gives us an Intimation, that it was all designed to answer their present Occasions; then he tells us of his going up into the Mountain, and
; his Disciples following him, and his making this Discourse. And that it was designed to the Multitudes, as well as to them, we learn from
, my Text, which informs us, that the People stayed to the End of the Sermon, and were mightily struck with Admiration of it, for that our Saviour taught them with Authority, and not
■ as the Scribes; ye may justly wonder why I should be at any Pains to prove this was one Discourse, all spoke at one Time to one and the same Auditory, when St. Matthew's Account is so very clear and plain in this Matter. But as clear as it is, some very considerable Authors, have represented the Matter quite otherwise, as if St. Matthew had made a Collection of our
A a 3 Saviour's vjour's moral Instructions, spoken at different times and Places, and thrown them altogether into this Sermon: but how to reconcile this with the Sincerity of the Evangelist, who gives us a quite different Account of the Thing, in as express Words as he could put it, as of a Discourse all delivered at one Time, and in one certain Place, and to one and the same Auditory, I confess is beyond my Capacity. And if this could be solved, I think it is much more for our Saviour's Honour, to represent him, as the Evangelist here doth, as delivering a most pertinent, regular Discourse, all calculated for. the immediate Occasions and Circumstances of his Hearers, than as these others do, to bring in an Heap, as they make them, of incoherent Directions, some for all Men, some for all Christians, some for Apostles, so intermixed, that without any other Reason, besides the Puzzle they give the Interpreter, they are jumbled without any Order or Method whatsoever. I am apt to think this Opinion is owing chiefly either to the Interpreters Ignorance, or their Inadvertency of our Saviour's true Scope and Design, and consequently of the Coherence and Connexion of the several Parts of the Discourse, which reduced them to this miserable Shift, that they made it a strange Mixture of incoherent Doctrines; whereas to take it iB its right Sense, it is a most regular and methodical Pursuit of one Design, all fitted to correct the wrong Notions the Jews had of the Kingdom of. the Messiah, and to teach them the right Dispositions of Mind that were necessary for the Messiah's Disciples*..
Now I think it is no reasonable Objection against this that I observe, concerning this Sermon being all delivered at once, that- some Parts of it are found repeated on some other Occasions. For I think it was very suitable with our Saviour's Wisdom, frequently to inculcate and press Truths of such great Importance, whenever there was any Occasion given for it, as there was oftener than once.
II. Secondly, I observe from what is said here, that 'when ye/us had ended these Sayings, the People were aflomjhed at his DoSlrine, for he taught them with Authority: I observe, I say, that the chief Auditors for whom this Sermon was intended, were the People in general. It was to take off the general; Errors and Prejudices of Mankindx with relation to the Messiah and his Kingdom,, and to acquaint all Men what Dispositions of Mind were necessary for them, if they intended to be his Disciples, that this Sermon was preached. And therefore to strain any of these Sayings of it to find out the Duty of Pastors or Magistrates, as some have done,' is- in so far a miffing of the Scope, and a wandring from the main Design of this Discourse. And if so, what wild Interpretations must these be, which exclude ordinary private Christians from the Obligations to observe several of the Precepts here delivered? If the People were here designed to be taught, as is very plain, both from the Prologue and Epilogue, and the whole Subject Matter, as I shewed in the Explication' of the Prologue, then let no Man think to creep out from any of the strict Duties here enjoined, under Pretence that they belong to
A a 4 Apostles,